Most of us like to avoid the thought of death, but for Bronnie Ware, being in contact with the dying was her job. A former nurse who looked after people in the last few weeks of their lives, she has now written a book entitled ‘The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying’ where she talks about her experiences with the terminally ill, and how suprised she was to realise that most patients had the same regrets before they died.
In the heartfelt revelation, she talks about how it is the simple things in life, like staying in touch with friends and being true to yourself, that most people wished they had been able to achieve.
Ms Ware also found men regretted working too hard, while many people wish they had had the courage to more frequently express their feelings.
She said: ‘My patients were those who had gone home to die and some incredibly special times were shared.
‘People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality and some changes were phenomenal.
‘Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected – denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance.
‘Every single patient found their peace before they departed though.
‘When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.’
She says the five most common regrets of the elderly are:
#1. ‘I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me’
In her book, Ms Ware says many elderly people regret not keeping up with old friends because ‘everyone misses their friends when they are dying’
‘This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.
‘Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.’
#2. ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’
‘This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
‘Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.’
#3. ‘I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings’
‘Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.’
#4. ‘I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends’
‘Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down.
‘Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.
‘There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.’
#5. ‘I wish that I had let myself be happier’
‘This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice.
‘They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called “comfort” of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives.
‘Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.’